I love film songs – those that were composed between 1931 and 1975 that is. There are of course some that came later and have stayed on in my mind but these are few and far between. So I thought, why not a column on some of my favourites?

The first of my favourite songs is KL Saigal’s Balam Aye Baso More Man Mein from Devdas (1935). Sung by the immortal KL Saigal, the lyrics were by Kedar Sharma, the tune by Timir Baran Chakraborthy. The film was made by New Theatres.

I have seen this film, or at least parts of it, when it was telecast over DD. The acting was of course dreadfully dated (Jamuna, who played Paro was the most wooden) but the music was great. A Bengali version was simultaneously made, which starred PC Barua in place of Saigal. I now realise as I write this that I have seen several versions of Devdas, apart from the above – the ANR/Savitri/Lalitha version in Tamil and Telugu (dont ask why I saw the same film in two languages – I was young and had plenty of time on my hands), the Dilip Kumar/Suchitra Sen/Vyjayathimala starrer in Hindi, the Soumitra Chatterjee/Supriya Debi/Sumitra Mukherjee version in Bengali. The last named had Uttam Kumar doing a delightful Chunilal, the friend of the hero who introduces him to the delights of alcohol.

I saw all these versions despite my complete dislike of the story. It is quite unbelievable to me that a young man could break up like that over his love failure. And the fact that he did nothing to rouse himself from his depression. But then I do realise that this was a story set in a period when depression was not classified as an illness that could be treated. Which is why, I like the way Dev D treated the same storyline. I must admit however that I always had goose pimples at the end of each version – the last scene is very dramatic. I did not see the Shahrukh Khan version.

Anyway, coming back to the old Devdas, the songs are all great. But one of the reasons why Balam Aye is stuck in my head is because its tune was copied faithfully for the Kalki Krishnamurthy song Poonkuil Koovum Pooncholaiyil Oru Naal! You can hear DK Pattammal sing it in this youtube clip where SS Mani plays the gramophone disc with the song. I wonder when Kalki composed it, though I am quite certain that his song followed the Hindi original. After all, Pattammal began recording only in 1938 or thereabouts.

This article is part of a series on old film songs, chiefly Hindi and Tamil. The subsequent parts can be read from links below:

Roshan Kumari in Jalsaghar

MLV sings and speaks on Theatre 

Uran Khatola and Vaanaratham

Azhagiya Mithilai Nagarinile – a heritage tour on film

Sonnathu Nee Thana (Nenjil Or Alayam) 

Gagan Jhanjhana Raha in Tamil

From Nastik (1954) to Maheswari (1955)

MGR’s Ali Baba

Carmen Miranda, Vasundhara, Bhanumathi and Sarangapani

Patanga and the Tamil film songs it ‘inspired’

From Thandi Hawayen to Konjum Purave

From Manamagal to Mr Sampath

From Chico Chico to Gore Gore to Ayyasami

Bharatidasan, Dhandapani Desigar and the Travancore Sisters

Jaag Dard e Ishq and Rajasekara

Paigham and Irumbu Thirai

Que Sera Sera, sung by Bhanumathi

From Malaikkallan to Azaad

From Nain So Nain to Aasai Pongum

The Tune behind Katrinile Varum Geetham

MissAmma/Miss Mary – a tribute to Savitri and Meena Kumari

The tune behind Kalyana Samayal Sadam

Remembering Ayilo Pakariyama!

Aadha Hai Chandrama in Tamil